Death To Footnotes!

What are the bars to comprehension of text?  Which can be surmounted?  Different question– which ought to be surmounted?

My partners and I have created an iPad app-based platform that we think gives readers a window in to daunting literary texts, presenting various supplements to their reading in a staged and staggered fashion that allows the reader to overcome personal bars to comprehension at their discretion, without the insistent and invasive attack on the text mounted by footnotes.  We create high quality graphic adaptations of the text (that is, we make comic books) layered with an easy to access reader’s guide that provides greater elucidation of the text in a conversational style that sounds like the smartest guy/gal in the bar.  The reader’s guide text is further hyperlinked out to various web resources for obtaining more information, at the reader’s discretion.  Layered beneath the reader’s guide is a discussion area where reader’s can ask specific questions, advance theories, and, of course, argue.

We have started with adaptations of three difficult literary works– James Joyce’s Ulysses, T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, and a mash up of the Iliad, combining Homer with Shakespeare and various pieces of archeological scholarship.  The platform was used in a classroom environment for the first time last month, but we have received a number of comments from users that makes us think our little experiment might be working.

I’d like to discuss ways that visuals and self-directed learning resources can be used as an aid to comprehension, and where the line gets crossed in which the resource replaces the thing it was supposed to be supplementing.